Introductory Essay – 2016

Ink & collage by Carmen Prez untitled.

the untold want by life and land ne’er granted
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find
– Walt Whitman. “leaves of grass”

The self is an artist’s constant refuge and trove; it is the reckless and ever-tickling source of the untold want. Self, particularly for the now post, post-modern artist, is defined beyond the immediate; it encompasses our origins, pre-dispositions, politics, and environment. The works in this year’s show, without exception, represent a step beyond an answer to academic or foundational exercise. They are sometimes modest, sometimes wobbly, graceful, unforgiving, encumbered, precise, or spontaneous, but each one registers, even if just a glimpse, an awareness and deliberate telling of self.

Xavier Ciro’s, Self-portrait is a stark professed rendering; a black and white self, witness to the rich world around him depicted nimbly in the full yellow blossom. The filmy surface appears newly (and joyfully) ruptured.

Jie Hu’s Jie emerges porcelain-like in cool hues, warmed to life with fawn eyes and flesh pink smile.

Xiaomin Zhang’s subject in Untitled Portrait confronts the viewer’s gaze. Deft line work etches delicate features that so uncannily command our attention even while, or perhaps because, they sustain vulnerability.

Zihao Wang’s Portrait represents an extraordinary discipline of skill that is neither timid nor showy. The sketchy texture of the subject’s garment and hair in deference to the refined rendering of averted features and soft bone structure assures an appreciation of her quiet dignity.

Sung Jun Lee’s enigmatically titled, my question to Your audience: Do you feel like yourselves, in angle and laborious attention to detail deceptively complex? I mean this in a good way. Its beauty lies in the rhythmic construction of simplified shapes. Observe the ticked black crescent of hair, the shadow of the right hand, or the fingers on the left hand. It all hangs moving and frozen as if by magic.

Wilmy Nunez’ Reckless Dentist is at once monumental, in its lively symphony of tone and form, and personal, in the unwavering posited emotion of the great grimacing face of the sitter. A black man screams or resists actions or an environment not known by the viewer, but felt in unison.

Sharon Ranaweera-Ponniah has captured so perfectly the unflinching integrity of her subject, Omar, that one almost fails to appreciate the deliberate and minimal mark-making that undoubtedly founds the success of the work as a portrait.

Thru drawing and collage, Maria Champion and Kyoung Hyun undermine Max Ernst’s seminal work, Une Semaine du bont (A week of kindness), and update surrealism to the 21st century. Found imagery from contemporary media, textural patterns, and references to other periods in art history, cohabitate in uncanny, yet darkly humorous spaces.

Carmen Perez’ Untitled collage is a lesson in elegant brevity and formal restraint in contrast to her colleague Kymani Wallace’s Untitled collage; his executing impeccable design, all the while unfolding errant political possibilities.

There is guarded jubilance in the work of Romaro Wilson and Omar Rouzyi. Wilson’s Broken Chain, fractured and anesthetic is not completely innocuous; its organic, deep purple, form conjures a not-so-distant menace. Rouzyi’s Untitled totem recalls the lost Buddhas of Bamiyan. Cool white veins channel through chipped dusty “earth” and the peeled planes of lush red undergrowth to render a single solemn figure.

Amanda Rivera’s Mother’s Garden registers the married frenetic pace of motherhood. The sleeping child suggests security but perhaps also the dream of being like Mum. The blurred and de-saturated figures wax nostalgic but lend themselves to an unapologetic avowal to motherhood and, more pointedly, an admirable goal.

Shanon Smalls’ Untitled thrice rendered female looks out, at once sympathetic and inquiring. Flickering celluloid heroine or jumping faceted reflection of a cracked looking glass?

Adam Babats Untitled blurred figure converses poignantly with Stephanie Yao’s obscured figure in Smoke. Babat’s elusive child(hood), tender provocateur gives way to the intentional withdrawal of Yao’s young adult.

C J Reitman’s punnily titled, Adorning Fan displays her keen compositional eye and acquired comfort behind the camera. A brilliant snare of candid playfulness; is the subject a fan or adorned to defend against us adoring fans?

Rashad Khan’s Untitled landscape is not a figurative portrait but illuminates his subject with no less care or determination. Brittle, stippled, gauzy, and smooth textures precisely composed in a dreamy sepia tone cast us exactly into another’s world.

Jeannine Atanasoski’s La nuit du Chasseur (The night of the Hunter) is aptly titled, not least for its cinematic references and in particular Francois Truffaut’s young protagonist, Antoine Doinel. We are complicit in his future, even as Whitman’s voyager sails.

Tesko Messam’s cryptic structure floats in a grayed post-apocalyptic landscape, reminiscent of Redon’s furtive caves.

It is the small gem on the horizon,

perhaps held in the sight of our voyagers.

The above represents only a sample, so as my colleague has already urged you, look, and be curious yourself. All the work arrests a langer, while you linger and understand a longing.

A. Coffey